How do we deal with Orson Scott Card and the Ender’s Game movie?

The discussion about Ender’s Game has reached a head in the last several days, with new statements from Orson Scott Card, Lionsgate and now with the film appearing at Comic-con, so I thought I’d give my two cents worth.  For those of you who don’t know, Ender’s Game is a science fiction book from 1985 written by Card, which has a movie adaptation of it coming out on November 1st.  I remember reading the book repeatedly in middle school; at the time it was one of my favorites, though I never read any of its sequels.  It wasn’t until later that I learned the truth about Orson Scott Card.

You see, Card is the worst sort of homophobe.  Not content merely to privately have an anti-gay point of view, he has made a habit of using his fame to espouse his views and to push his anti-gay agenda.  This is not new information, but it has returned to the spotlight with the upcoming release of the movie.  You would think that an author with a major Hollywood adaptation of his book coming out would tone down the rhetoric in order to help sell tickets.  It makes sense to try to avoid alienating your audience before the movie is even released.  But here’s what he had to say to Entertainment Weekly about the recent Supreme Court ruling:

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

I could rant about how infuriating it is to hear someone who has spent their life spouting out hatefully intolerant things now asking us to tolerate his intolerance, but I won’t.  What I’m more interested in discussing is whether or not I will feel comfortable seeing a film based on this man’s work.  It’s very easy to argue for a boycott or that his art is separate from his opinions.  In fact, both of these arguments have been made in various corners of the Internet.

The boycott argument makes a lot of sense.  Card’s views are repellant to me, and anyone who agrees with me on this probably doesn’t want any of their money going into his pockets. It would be reasonable to assume that a portion of the money he makes he contributes to anti-gay causes (though I have no way to prove it), and therefore it’s easy to imagine your dollars spent on the movie going directly to those groups (think Chick-fil-a).  This is simply unacceptable.

However, the argument that art should be separate from the artist is also a valid point.  There are plenty of actors/singers/writers who have said or done horrible things who still make undeniably great art.  I can’t imagine anyone who likes Chris Brown as a person, but his music is still popular.  I despise most of Mel Gibson’s personal life, but I still love his movies.  There has to be the ability in life to separate a work of art from the creator of that art, in order to have some level of objectivity.  (Here’s a great blog about this point of view, which also discusses the negative impact that a boycott might have on science fiction as a film genre.)

I suppose what I’m getting at is that I feel that we as adults have to acknowledge that “bad” people are capable of doing and creating “good” things, just as “good” people are capable of doing and creating “bad” things.  This is an important thing to remember, as it keeps us from ever completely writing off or ignoring those we disagree with.  It also allows us to experience art free from the context of its creation.  (This, of course, does not forgive “art” that is written to support a particular objectionable position, which Ender’s Game was not.)  And if it helps at all, you can remind yourself that Card has already been paid for the film rights to the book, whether you buy a ticket or not, so your money will most likely go to supporting the filmmakers and not the author.

It’s also true that it’s much easier to separate a film adaptation of a book from the author of that book, as opposed to separating the singer of a song from the song he’s singing.  There’s usually a buffer between book and film, as the story passes through several sets of hands before it’s presented on screen.  Lionsgate, who are producing the film, have done the right thing in attempting to distance themselves from Card’s views, going so far as to have a LGBT benefit premiere of the movie.  And just in case you think it’s merely the studio trying to cover its ass, it’s also clear that the cast wants nothing to do with Card’s opinions, as Harrison Ford recently stated at Comic-con, “I am aware of his statements admitting that the question of gay marriage is a battle he lost. He admits that he lost. I think we all know that we’ve all won. That humanity has won. And that’s the end of the story.”  Given the fact that the book in no way reflects Card’s views on homosexuality, and the fact that the filmmakers and cast do not support his views, I feel like it’s unfair to punish them simply for choosing to adapt what is truly a wonderful book.

However, we can’t simply ignore the fact that something we like was written by someone whose views we disagree with.  It’s all too easy to say “it’s just a book” or “it’s just a song” and write off the art’s creator as unimportant.  And while a boycott would certainly call attention to his views, it would also hurt the good people behind the film and would deny the worth of the story.  I think a far more useful solution is the sort of dialogue that seems to be springing up everywhere around this film.  A boycott or a dismissal of the artist are two ends that ignore the means in between.  And while I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for either boycotting the film or seeing it in the theater, I think doing either without any sort of discussion as to why simply misses the point.

So I’m going to see the movie, because I love the story and I think the film looks like it has the potential to be a fantastic adaptation of that story.  But I fully support those who want to boycott.  It’s important not to assume that those who go to see the film are doing so in support of Card.  But regardless of whether you see it or you boycott, the most important thing you can do is talk to people about why.  Do it in a blog, do it on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, do it around the watercooler at work or at Sunday School or in the locker room or between classes.  It’s important to acknowledge the sorts of opinions that are out there in order to fight them, just as it’s important not to let the views of one man affect your life.

And if you want a compromise, you can follow the suggestion of EW’s Mark Harris (who calls Card “an off-the-spectrum hatemonger cloaking himself as a voice of principled opposition, and he richly deserves to be shunned”) and write a check for the cost of the movie ticket to an organization that opposes his views.  You should definitely go read his article.  It’s a clever solution designed to assuage any possible guilty feelings.  But it’s all for nothing if we don’t talk about it.

What do you think?  Are you going to see Ender’s Game or do Card’s views make you prefer to boycott?  Are we ever able to completely separate art from artist, and even if we can, should we?  Are bad people capable of creating good things?  Let me know in the comments!

19 thoughts on “How do we deal with Orson Scott Card and the Ender’s Game movie?

  1. I had heard of the book, but it is one of the many I hadn’t read. Despite my own artistic/writer/illustrator side, and being a mad SF/fantasy fan, I find a lot of things when they come out as films (as does much of the audience, I bet).

    I had never heard of Orson Scott Card’s views.

    Which is why a discussion, a dialog is important.

    Most of the audience will go see a fine film with Han Solo in space once more, knowing nothing of the underlying conflicts. Hence the power of social media. We can now have an instant and powerful dialog, impossible when those first Star Wars films came out.

    I think you pretty much said it all in this blog; art and artist are two separate things, or not. In this case I cast my vote with the filmakers who want to bring a good tale to the screen.

    As for goodpeople/badpeople doing goodthings/badthings, I reposted this, about the (wonderful!) works of Hiyao Miyazaki, on Good and Evil and why he tells a different sort of tale…

    http://swordwhale.tumblr.com/post/55976108798/tastysynapse-philosophy-of

    “see the good in that which is evil, see the evil in that which is good, pledge yourself to neither side but vow instead to preserve the balance that exists between the two..”

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    • That’s a great quote! I love Miyazaki, but I’d never heard that one before. (It’s interesting that you brought him up, considering he’s currently dealing with some backlash over his recent comments. http://kotaku.com/hayao-miyazaki-called-anti-japanese-a-traitor-and-865643505 )

      I think having a discussion is the most important thing we can do as humans. It’s far too easy to ignore things we don’t like or to allow things to pass by without comment. We don’t have to let Card’s opinions affect our ability to enjoy the movie, but it’s not enough simply to ignore him. I feel like we have an obligation to call out the things we find objectionable, in order to prevent people from assuming that silence means acceptance. But while a boycott would do that, I feel like it’s not the most useful way to engage in a discussion.

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  2. Great article. As a gay man, the author’s views disgust me. However, the trailer looked pretty good so now I’m a little torn. It’s a really tricky issue but I think I’ll watch the movie. Although the idea of financing this scum-bag repulses me I don’t think it would be fair to boycott the movie because so many non-douchey people must have worked so hard on it and it looks quite good.I’m actually looking forward to watching it.

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    • Thanks for commenting! I’m straight, but Card’s views still disgust me. However, having read the book, it really is a great story, and I’m very excited about the movie version. I totally understand people who draw a line in the sand and refuse to see the movie, but that’s not me. I think it’s more important to have a dialogue than it is to simply boycott. I think a boycott of a movie because of the views of its author is less useful than the boycott of a company with discriminatory practices.

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  3. The man said he doesn’t support gay marriage, that doesn’t make him homophobic. Tons of my friends have the same view and are still fantastic, sweet people. I’m not going to stop associating with them just because they have a different opinion than me. Agree to disagree and move on. Don’t let it stop you from seeing a great movie. ❤

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    • I think that having a point of view that says that you feel some people can be denied rights based on their sexual preference is absolutely homophobic. Yes, people can have horrific views and still otherwise be “fantastic, sweet people”. But Card doesn’t just have these views, he’s an anti-gay rights activist, who served on the board of directors for the National Organization for Marriage. It’s one thing to have different opinions, it’s another thing to tolerate those with different opinions working to deny people rights. As I said in my post, I am still going to see the movie, and I think people with my views should feel ok about going, but it’s important to have a discussion of what is and is not acceptable to us. You may be fine with your friend’s opinions, and I have friends that I disagree with, but when people are working to hurt others is when I draw the line. Would you say “My friend doesn’t want black people to be allowed to use the same water fountains as white people, but he’s not a racist?” What if he didn’t simply have that opinion, but campaigned for separate fountains, and donated to groups who fight integration. Still not a racist? Our views and our actions matter, and while homophobic people like Card are capable of creating great art, that doesn’t excuse their views.
      Read this quote from Card’s essay about homosexuality and tell me he’s not homophobic:
      “But for the protection of the Saints and the good of the persons themselves, the Church has no room for those who, instead of repenting of homosexuality, wish it to become an acceptable behavior in the society of the Saints. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, preaching meekness while attempting to devour the flock.”

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      • Ok, he’s not homophobic. I read the article and you’re taking that quote out of context. The line just before that says, “The Church has plenty of room for individuals who are struggling to overcome their temptation toward homosexual behavior.”
        Meaning that they accept gays, but they don’t believe in practicing the gay lifestyle and they don’t believe in condoning it.
        Like I said, we may not agree, but that doesn’t make them homophobic. If OSC really hated gays, he would discourage them from ever reading his books, or ever being a part of his church. He would flat out say, “I HATE THE GAYS”.
        And as far as the him being an ‘anti gay rights activist’, that is a complete misconception. NOM is not ‘anti’, they are an organization that believes in protecting what they believe should be the definition of ‘marriage’.
        I’ve done plenty of research on this subject, and I would be a lot more defensive if they were literally taking away their rights rather than the option to get married. Elton John even said:
        “I don’t want to be married. I’m very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership. The word ‘marriage,’ I think, puts a lot of people off.”
        The argument is about gay MARRIAGE, not gays in general.
        That being said, I agree with his statement about tolerance. We all need to learn to live with each other, because we’re never going to agree on this subject. I can go on living my life and believing in what I believe, and he can do the same.

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        • If you had done your research like you say you would know that NOM also opposes civil unions and other gay rights issues like gay adoption. That is most definitely “anti”. The NOM opposes exactly what Elton John says he wants in that quote of yours. As for Card, the context you are providing for that quote states that his church only accepts gays who want to be straight and is not accepting of gays in general. You can try to twist that however you want, but to me and to others, that’s homophobia. He is entitled to believe what he wants, as are you, an I still love his book and will see his movie. My point with this post was to make it clear that while I may support the movie, I don’t support him, his views or his actions.

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          • No, the church accepts you no matter what you are but they don’t CONDONE the lifestyle. I could say the same to you about accepting people with different beliefs. Does that mean you hate mormons because they have a different opinion than yours? No, you accept them, right? But you don’t agree with them.
            Tolerance. It goes both ways.

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            • I think you might have used a bad analogy there… Pirate has never said anything to make me believe they don’t ‘CONDONE’ Mormons, or anyone else for that matter. I don’t believe the same things as a Mormon, but I don’t ‘condone’ (or not) their views or beliefs. For example, I think door knocking is dumb, I don’t think it gets them that many converts, it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people and a bit of a pain – but it’s perfectly legal (so long as they go away when I ask them to etc) and if they want to do it… eh. That’s not me condoning them, that’s something someone else does being none of my business.

              You assume that everyone has to have opinions on all practices that are either positive or negative if you don’t share them. I neither condone nor condemn Mormons, I don’t think they’re RIGHT about everything, but so long as they break no laws and hurt no one, they go about their business and I go about mine. NOM has an agenda, this agenda directly affects people who are different from them. Whether you like it or not, it IS at odds with (if you don’t like the word ‘anti’) the modern gay-rights movement. You don’t have to pick a side if you don’t want to, but you can’t pretend these two things aren’t at odds.

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              • Thanks for the support, generally I agree with you. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I oppose any actions taken in support of a cause that is causing harm to other people, such as NOM. I’m not opposed to Mormons, nor am I saying they can’t have their views, but I do have a problem with the actions of Card and the groups he supports which actively campaign to deny people rights.

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        • A person doesn’t have to state “I hate the gays” if their actions already proclaim it so boldly. Traditional m/f marriage does not need protection from gay people because affording lgbtq persons the same civil rights as others does not take away from anyone. Anti-gay marriage is clearly an anti position. Why should someone like Card go out of their way to try to prevent other people from receiving equal and dignified treatment because of sexual orientation? You can call it whatever you like, but it feels damn hateful to be on the receiving end of it. Imagine if his church said it’s okay to be black as long as you are “struggling to overcome” your non-whiteness. Or it’s okay to be female as long as you are trying to get past “the temptation” to not be male. It’s ridiculous and dehumanizing.

          I’m bisexual and I loved the book Ender’s Game and I intend to see the movie too. But I’m not going to white wash Card’s position on civil rights to make myself feel better about doing it. He’s part of a movement that actively seeks to deny equality and dignity to persons like me. I don’t feel obligated to tolerate or respect his opinion about how I’m a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or how my relations, which have nothing to do with him, are not “acceptable” and should be discouraged informally and legally as much as possible. It’s hard to “learn to live with” people who are trying to tell you how to live! We as a society may never agree 100% on this issue in the same way that even now there are people who are racist, misogynistic, etc. — but it’s clear which way the moral arc of the universe is bending, and Orson Scott Card is on the wrong side of history.

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  4. My problem is that if I go see the movie, am I not also giving a fraction of my money to a fear-mongering bigot? I dunno if writing a cheque to even out the erosion of my soul helps either, since I’m still helping to keep a screeching harpy of hate happy. I was stupefied to learn someone who writes so beautifully about morality can have such ugly ideals.

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    • Yeah, I know what you mean. In all likelihood, he’s already been paid, so your money would go to the studio and not to him. Also, your money would be going to actors and producers that oppose his views, so there’s that, too. I would never criticize someone for not going because of your reasoning, however, because it’s a personal decision.

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      • Well, the studio would be well advised to come out and state “Orson has already been paid, he won’t be getting royalties”, because I imagine he will. And as you said, it’s tough because I do want to support great sci-fi (and hopefully a great movie), I just hate how I’m stuck in this moral quandary. It’s like those Mormons who were allowed to stage Wicked. First they want to treat homosexuals as less than human by opposing their rights and freedoms, but then they also want to be allowed to enjoy and profit from a work created by a homosexual (and produced by a lot of them too). No, it doesn’t work that way. Pick a principle and stick to it.

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        • You’re exactly right, I think it would be very wise of the studio to say that, if it’s the case. I hadn’t heard about the Mormon production of Wicked, but that sounds pretty bad.

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